Friday, August 26, 2011

Corregidor

In June, five members of congress visited "The Rock" as Corregidor Island in the Philippines is known. The Congressmen were there as part of a recess study tour of the Philippines as well as of Turkey and Iraq. They agreed that they were surprised at how much they learned. The congressional delegation was composed of Russ Carnanhan (D-MO), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Judge Ted Poe (R-TX).

Watch this 1943 movie here
Thus far, only Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) was inspired to become a co-sponsor of H. Res 333, which honors those veterans who fought on Corregior as well as throughout the Pacific. We hope readers will remind these members of congress of their trip to this historic landmark.

Their tour was led by Steve Kwiecinski, the son of one of Corregidor's defenders, Staff Sgt. Walter Kwiecinski, who manned the last 12 inch mortar firing on Battery Way (60th U.S. Coast Artillery).

The elder Kwiecinski, a Minnesota native, was a POW slave laborer with Lester Tenney mining coal for Mitusi at Omuta in Fukuoka. Mitusi has never responded to requests for a dialogue or an apology from the American POWs of Japan.

The Defense of Corregidor will be forever known as the last heoric stand of the battle for the Philippines in 1942, the worst military defeat experienced by the U.S. On December 25, 1941, General Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), was forced to move his headquarters from Manila to the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay. A series of air raids by the Japanese destroyed all the exposed structures on the island and USAFFE headquarters was dug in to the Malinta Tunnel on the island.

Japanese bombing and shelling was relentless. The Americans and Filipinos--soldiers, sailors, Marines, and civilians--were running out of ammunition, food, medicine, and people. Early in the battle, on March 12th, was evacuated to Australia leaving Lt. General Jonanthan Wainwright in charge. Armed with World War I-era weapons that were barely useful against the massive Japanese assault, they held out.

In a radio message to President Franklin Roosevet, Wainwright wrote, "There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed." Gen. Jonathan Wainwright finally surrendered the Corregidor garrison at about 1:30 p.m. on May 6, 1942. See HERE for a comprehensive resource on the battles to defend and retake the Philippines.

Earl Szwabo, a constituent of Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO), manned a coastal defense artillery emplacement on Corregidor (59th U.S. Coast Artillery) when the Japanese assault began hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He survived the battle only to be shipped to Japan on a Hell Ship. He became a slave laborer at a copper foundry owned by Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha in Nagoya, at a port city south of Tokyo. Much of the work involved melting down bells seized from churches. Other Allied POW slave laborers at this POW camp mined coal or manufactured sulfuric acid for the company.

Szwabo was one of the six POWs who participated in the first American POW trip to Japan in September 2010 to receive the Japanese government's apology for their abuse and starvation. The Yokkaichi facility where Mr. Szwabo slaved still exists and Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha (ISK) has prospered.

In September, he and his wife did visit the Yokkaichi facility and met with plant officials who expressed their regret for his mistreatment, but said they were not part of the same company. They, however, would not speak on the record, nor offer an apology. He also visited a memorial that company had built to the souls of all those who died laboring for the company at this site.

The company's American subsidiary, Ishihara Corporation (USA) is located in San Francisco and its President is Marvin Hosokawa.

Mr. Szwabo accepted and appreciated the understanding he received from ISK's Yokkaichi plant managers. The hope is that someday, ISK's Chairman will deliver an apology and support efforts to remember the POW experience in Japan. And the greater hope is that companies larger than ISK such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo will also move forward with meetings and apologies.

Accepting an apology, however, doesn't mean that the horrors should be forgotten, as Mr. Szwabo told the St. Louis Beacon:
A POW will never forget. I dream still of different things, and think about it," he said. "I lost my outfit on Palawan when they burned 150 alive there. I was lucky that I got shipped out. I guess God was on my side. And I know why I was picked; I was in better shape than the older guys, and the Japanese took the ones who looked the best physically, so they could work us to death. The bad part is you can't forget it.

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